PRESIDENT PROPOSED OBLIGATORY ACCREDITATION AND CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

SPEAKING AT A SEMINAR IN THE SENATE, ALVARO ROJAS, PRESIDENT OF OUR UNIVERSITY, SAID THAT A MECHANISM SHOULD BE ESTABLISHED FOR THE ENTIRE SYSTEM OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE COUNTRY.



May 5, 2016

Obligatory accreditation and the establishment of a system of quality assurance for all institutions of higher education in the country were some of the proposals that the president of the UTALCA, Alvaro Rojas, raised during his presentation at the seminar "The future of our universities", organized by the Committee on Education and Culture of the Senate.

During the speech, held at the meeting room of the Upper Chamber, in Santiago, Rojas questioned that these matters began to be considered relevant in Chile only since 2010.

"Public policy has not focused on discussing the issue of quality. We can ask ourselves if we didn't know what was happening outside. We knew it. International experience is very rich and very ancient. What is being done in the USA, for example, where the system dates back to the 19th century. The Middle State Commission of Higher Education was founded in 1887 and in 1927 it had already accredited the universities of Columbia, Cornell, Pennsylvania and Princeton. There have been almost 100 years of experience in accreditation," he said.

After reviewing the evolution of the system in the country since 1981, he said that within the framework of the higher education system reform, which is currently being discussed, a central axis should be the creation of a binding mechanism that ensures both the quality of teaching and the accreditation of institutions.

Coherent system

"You can say that universities in Chile apply actions and have measures and instruments for quality assurance, but it is not systemic, these are actions that are reflected in contest rules or hierarchical formation and studies, that are also part of the quality, but that does not constitute in itself a coherent quality assurance system," he underlined.

He added that something similar should be considered for the issue of accreditation. "A systemic structure should be given to the set of rules, instruments and bodies that operate in practice in most of the institutions and that without a structure, it does not constitute a system in itself," he stressed.

"In that sense, it is essential that accreditation should verify and evaluate the results of the implementation of internal policies of quality assurance and how they are institutionally integrated. Each policy should consider: tools, resources, incentives and the establishment of indicators that permit to know if they are effective", he remarked.

Feedback

The president of the UTALCA also recommended looking at the European experience in both subjects. "The accreditation and quality assurance have to do with feedback, with information flowing from entities that transmit, rules, actions and measures that are relevant to its continuous improvement to the universities. In Chile, we are closer to an academic audit that operates every five years than an assessment for feedback," he said.

By way of example, he remarked how little relevance is given to the report done by the peer reviewers as part of the accreditation process.

"The report made in the Commission is part of a very large, very long agenda, where there are several accreditations to check and not only about institutions, but also about graduate studies, mainly PhDs, in a tremendously dense jargon. And in a fact as important for an institution as it is its improvement, its contribution to knowledge, and in the case of the regional universities such as ours that are also crucial for the regional development, it cannot be viewed briefly, because, from the conclusions of the accreditation the strings begin to be attached in terms of a quality assurance plan or an improvement plan, which should be fundamental" he said.

Likewise, he pointed out that there should be a special control over the implementation of the "Institutional Improvement Plan" that each institution produces once the process concludes.



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